Northern Ethiopia

Northern Ethiopia

Northern Ethiopia is by far one of the richest regions of Ethiopia in its natural geographical, historical and wild life attractions. It is the historic heartland of Ethiopia for it consists most old provinces of Ethiopia. The circuit spins around four northern Ethiopia cities namely Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum and Lalibela all of them with very distinct features to each other.

Bahir Dar

The city is taken as the first destination in the northern historic route. It is found on the southeastern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake and official source of the Blue Nile River. There are numerous types of endemic birds surrounding Lake Tana which made Bahir Dar a spot for birdwatchers. The lake is a place where local fishermen still use papyrus boats while traditional fishing. Watching a traditional fisherman fishing is one of the rewarding moments tourists enjoy. Lake Tana is also is a wonderful place for kayaking and fishing for huge Barbs, Tilapia and Catfish. Let us arrange a boat and guide for fishing trip you will never forget. With an early morning start before sunrise, experience the beautiful sights and sounds as hippos come out to feed, bards skim across the warm water then dive for their breakfast, and the fish literary jump out of the water. Watch the sunrise as you either dip your oar or your fishing pole into the still water. See the huge Pelicans resting very quietly on the lake waiting for a fish to be tossed to them as a local fisherman pulls up his nets.

In addition to the water activities, explore some of the ancient monasteries such as the monastery of Tana Chirkos which was founded as pre-Christian shrines is the oldest monastery where Judaic scarifications were practiced. Here at the monastery of Tana Chirkos Ethiopian Orthodox church has it in their ancient manuscript that the Ark of the Covenant was believed to have been kept for 800 years before it was transferred to its current resting place Axum. Tana Chirkos is unique and is an interesting destination for it still features its ancient Judaic sacrificial stones pillars. The monastery of Daga Estiphanos with its priceless collection of icons, as well as with its five former mummified remains of several medieval emperors from the 16thC including Fasilidas, the founder of Gondar. is the other magnificent monastery which should not missed, Kibran Gabriel which is known for its ancient manuscripts, though closed to women, houses the most hundreds of priceless ancient books and antique crosses inside its museum, Ura Kidane Mehret, with its murals of the 17th C, and several others that have been built in the 13thC offers the most unique religious history and tradition.

Just 33km far from Bahir Dar is the spectacular Tiss Abay or Tiss Isat Falls where the Blue Nile creates ‘smoking Abay (Nile)’. It is situated on the upper course of the river, about 32 kilometers downstream from the town of Bahir Dar and Lake Tana. The Blue Nile waterfalls are one of Ethiopia’s best known tourist attractions. At the place where the Blue Nile river meets a small and beautiful gorge at 33 kms south of Bahir Dar makes the magnificent 42 meters high falls entailing four streams originally varied from a small tiny falls  in the dry season to over 400 meters wider falls in the rainy season. Currently the water level of Lake Tana now fluctuates; and since 2003 a hydro-electric station has taken much of the flow out of the falls except during the rainy season. At a fairly short distance downstream from the falls, it is a breathtaking moment to witness the first medieval period stone bridge constructed over the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia which was built at the command of Emperor Susinios in 1626.


Gondar refered as the ‘Camelot of Africa’ is the second usual stop in the historic route. The city was found by Emperor Fasiladas in 1636. Gondar was the 17thC capital of Ethiopia served for about 250 years. The city’s unique imperial compound with 900 meter long wall contains a number of castles built between 1636 up to 1855 by emperor Fasiladas and his successors. It is one of Ethiopia’s UNESCO world heritage sites. Visiting the treasures of Gondar includes not only the royal enclosure but also the Bath of Emperor Fasiladas, the ruined Palace of Empress Mintiwab at Kusquam church, and the beautifully decorated medieval church of Debrebirhan Sillassie with its unique murals from the 17th century.


The Simien Mountains National Park

Enjoy adventurous trekking to the Simien Mountains where massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping. The dramatic landscape of the Simien Mountains which are made up of several massive plateaus, separated by broad river valleys are one of the most amazing geological features in the world. A number of peaks rise above 4,000metres, including Ras Dashen 4,543 meters above sea level. The mountains are home to three of Ethiopia’s extremely rare larger endemic mammals on earth: the Walia Ibex (a goat found nowhere else in the world), the more common gelada baboons, and the very rarely seen Ethiopian wolves. The Simien Mountains are registered by UNESCO as one of the world’s heritage site.



Visit Ethiopia’s ancient city of Axum, the country’s oldest urban settlement considered as the cradle of Ethiopian culture and Christianity. The Axumite kingdom emerged as the most powerful Red Sea state between the eastern Roman Empire and Persia, a great commercial power trade. Axum was the center of one of the world’s most powerful kingdoms from 200BC to 700AD converting to Christianity in the 4th century. And the capital of the historic Axumite state is the site of a number of remarkable monolithic stone steles, or obelisks each carved from a single piece of granite rock with identical decorations. Ethiopia’s most ancient city of Axum grew importance in classical antiquities. Axum is one of Ethiopia’s UNESCO registered heritage sites. The ruins of the ancient city is still clearly visible comprising some 300 enormous monolithic obelisks some of which raised in to the sky, representing huge tomb stones. The biggest of them is 33 meters high and weighs over 500 tones. It was the world’s largest monolith ever erected by man but fell at some time in the past. Some are also believed to have been used in ancient forms of pagan sun worship. The stele ranges from simple slabs to intricately carved and decorated obelisks. Important stone inscriptions, the remains of spectacular ruined palaces, and graves, rock engravings, inscribed tablets and special gold- silver and bronze currencies pays collective testament to the endeavor and complexity of what is perhaps the most mysterious of all the ancient civilizations of the world. This mystery is greater when one visit the nearby Temple of Yeha, estimated to have been constructed 2,500 years ago. The town is also the legendary birth place of the queen of Sheba, and the St. Mary of Zion church is believed to house the original Biblical Ark of the Covenant. These days Axum is considered the holiest city of Ethiopia and is destination of many pilgrims.



Visit the old city of Lalibela with its 11 rock-hewn monolithic churches in the 12th century. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are registered as one of Ethiopia’s UNESCO protected heritage sites. The city of Lalibela  is situated in an altitude of 2,630m above sea level. King Lalibela is credited for the foundation of Ethiopia’s northern small town of Lalibela. This little town hosts one of the world’s most incredible rock-hewn churches. They are a lasting monument to man’s faith in God and, are considered among the wonders of the world. These remarkable edifices were not constructed as such, but were chip and carved out of the solid volcanic rock in which they stand. With only hammer and chisels, the deed is so incredible that legend has it Angels worked on churches at night. One of the most magnificent churches is Bete Giorgis which has been excavated 12 meters down. Upon approach you will face and be greeted by its roof in the shape of a cross lying at their feet. Some of the churches are connected by underground tunnels and twisting mazes. The churches portray a vast array of styles and carvings. . The venue for some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia, a visit during the great celebrations of Timket (Epiphany) is particularly rewarding.

Southern Ethiopia

About Eastern Ethiopia